A Supplement For Sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the human brain in response to darkness. The hormone plays a critical role in helping people fall and stay asleep. Melatonin is also available in higher doses as a supplement. Many people take the synthetic version to help with jet lag or the occasional sleepless night, but is melatonin safe for pregnant women?
Pregnancy makes sleep difficult
Plain and simple, most pregnant women report problems sleeping. Whether the lack of sleep is due to nausea, heartburn, a growing belly, or anxious thoughts about an upcoming delivery, the complaint is common. The idea of a magical pill that could instantly solve such a problem is appealing, and some women turn to melatonin in an attempt to get a restful night’s sleep.
Supplement, not prescription
When deciding whether or not to take melatonin, pregnant women should know that the formulation is a supplement, not a prescription medication. Supplements are not regulated by government agencies, making purity difficult to guarantee. A recent study found the actual quantity of melatonin supplements examined ranged from 74-347% of the labeled quality. Additionally, some melatonin products were found to be contaminated with cannabidiol (CBD), which could be a concern. Working directly with a trusted compound pharmacy is a great way to ensure a melatonin supplement is free of contaminants and the desired dose.
Where’s the data?
Research studies are needed to know how a medication or supplement affects a developing baby. Melatonin is not well studied in human pregnancy, making possible risks difficult to evaluate. There are theoretical concerns that the supplement could affect the baby’s sleep and wake cycle once born, but more research is needed to prove this concern.
Alternative options for sleep
Given the lack of data, many women look for alternatives when sleep becomes problematic. Sleep hygiene is an approach that requires commitment but can be effective. Good sleep hygiene involves going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding caffeine later in the day, and steering clear of large meals before bed. Get some physical exercise during the day and avoid screens right before bed. Most importantly, ensure the bedroom is dark, quiet, and relaxing. Certain medications may be better studied in pregnancy and can help if insomnia persists, but pregnant women should always double-check with a doctor before taking anything.
Trouble sleeping is a common complaint among pregnant women, but that doesn’t mean individuals must have insomnia for months. Melatonin may be effective but is not well studied in pregnancy. Sleep hygiene and over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications are alternatives worth considering. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night is the best approach to keep both mom and baby healthy.